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April 15, 2016, 12:02 p.m.
Audience & Social

The Tylt, a project from Advance Digital’s in-house incubator, wants to change how the Internet argues

The site looks to redefine the opinion poll, comments sections, and metrics around social conversations, all at once.

“So where do you stand? Is ‘#DemocraticWhores’ a useful criticism?” one poll in the politics section of a new site called The Tylt reads. “Or should that term not even be thrown around — especially not in reference to Hillary? #ImWithHer.”

Visitors to the site can register a vote in favor of those critical of certain Democratic politicians who they’re calling out as beholden to giant corporations. Or they can vote #ImWithHer, siding with those who find the use of “whore” wildly inappropriate in a race with a strong female candidate.

The Tylt, the first project from Advance Digital’s in-house incubator Alpha Group, is trying to capture as much of, and as inclusively as it can, the online conversations around heated, timely topics such as this one.

vote-hillary-democratic-whores-tylt-twitter

At launch, the site presents various issues across the categories of culture, politics, entertainment, and sports that have been generating online debate and offers visitors two opposing hashtags to vote for on the site or share on Twitter for a 48-hour period. The site also maps out in realtime the popularity of the hashtags for each issue (a visualization of which side is getting the most votes or the most support online) and point out “influencers” who are helping the hashtag spread (generating lots of retweets, for instance).

tylt-hillary-democratic“What’s on our site can be topics that we’re chasing in the news, or are topics that we’ve surfaced on our own, but they’re always issues that are already in the social ether, in the online environment,” David Cohn, senior director of Alpha Group, said. “For now this is an MVP, but you can imagine this evolving down the line where there’s more than a binary, and where it can work across other social spaces like Tumblr, Vine, Instagram.”

Why impose new hashtags, and not ones that might be familiar to the site’s visitors? #ImWithHer is a hashtag that’s circulated since Clinton’s early candidacy, but another pair of dueling hashtags presented by The Tylt about whether Kobe Bryant’s sneaker brand will live on past his recent retirement (#KobeSneaksEnding vs. #KobeSneaksEvolving) generated a bit of confusion on how to actually register a vote. One can imagine a user jumping in on what is otherwise a very good debate set up by The Tylt (#OverDebates vs. #MoreDebates; #WomensSoccerBoycott vs. #NoOlympicsBoycott), but skipping over clunkier hashtags.

influencers-tylt

Hashtagging is still an action that people on social media are accustomed to, Cohn said, so the “signal” of choice for now: “We wanted to leverage behaviors people are already doing rather than forcing them into new behavior. The idea is to see where your opinion might lie in the grander scheme of things, and over time, as we add other social spaces in addition to Twitter, you’ll be able to see the conversation as they happen across multiple different networks.”

In addition to surfacing debate-worthy issues for the site, The Tylt’s small editorial team is writing some context around each debate (an issue like the Panama Papers, for instance, isn’t self-explanatory) and picking out tweets that support each side.

Cohn emphasized that the site that’s up now is a “minimum viable product” that could change as new staffers come on board (several editors are on board already, and it’s still hiring) and decide to take the project in a different direction. (Alpha Group’s mandate is not to come up with solutions for existing Advance Digital properties, but to create “out-of-the-box” projects that can take on lives of their own.)

“We try to shelter ourselves from the rest of the company in a way,” Cohn said. “We just come up with say, The Tylt, we find a team, and we let the new hires eventually take the reins.”

POSTED     April 15, 2016, 12:02 p.m.
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